Training for Bello Gallico – The final training

There are just 17 days left before the start of the Bello Gallico as I start the last preparations for my first 50 miler, the Bello Gallico trail on the 17th of December.

So the rough training plan for these last 17 days:

  • Put in a few long runs.
  • At least one long trail run.
  • A bit of speed work.
  • A night training run.
  • Stay in one piece.
  • Rest.

These last 17 days start as I have just finished my last workday and that structure of having to get up at 5 AM every morning to go out for a run suddenly has dissapeared. I expected that this would result in me getting up every day and just wanting to run endlessly but that’s not how it went for the first few days apparently I had to refind my rythm.

It did not take me too long to find that though, I just had to kick myself in the butt a few times during the first week after quiting my job.

Thursday the 1st of December

As I said, the strucutre that was missing had disrupted my training regime and so I ended up not running today and just walked around in the city centre of Utrecht a bit, buying a few small things for the Bello Gallico like handwarmers and a few waterproof bags to store my clothes in that I put in my race vest. Furthermore I am just resting, mentally and physically and rest is also training.

Friday the 2nd of December

friday212runI still did not feel like running but convinced myself to go out for a run anyway. Even though I did not want to run, I also did not want to spend the last 2 weeks until the Bello Gallico doing nothing and watching my endurance level drop.

And so I took a handheld bottle of water with me and set out of a run of an undefined length. Soon after I left the house it starts to drizzle a bit and all I can think of is, great extra training!

After about 20 km I stop to text Astrid that all is going well and that I am actually enjoying myself and will be home a bit later than planned.

After 28.7 km I arrive home, soaked by the rain but very content with this training run.

Saturday the 3rd of December

saturday312runToday I wanted to do another long run, with the almost 30 km of yesterday I wanted to take that “fatique” with me on another long run to simulate running long distances without putting all the distance in one single run.

So for today I had set out a nice new running course for myself by modifying one of my regular cycling routes. The plan was to go for a 40 km run at a very conservative pace. The run itself was quite uneventful, I kept the same pace and heartrate throughout the entire run and after 40 kilometers I was getting close to home again.

When I noticed that I would hit aproximately 41 km I decided to add a short loop to the run and make it a marathon. And so on this random Saturday morning I ran a marathon in a time under 4 hours with my heart rate in the low aerobe zone (135 – 145) for almost the entire run. Slowly I am starting to realize the progress I have been making on these long runs, and it makes me proud.

Sunday the 4th of December

Since I had just two back to back days with long runs, covering around 70 kilometer in just two days the plan was to do an alternative easy training today.

And so Astrid and I decided to go out for a bike ride on this beautiful sunny winter day. And so early in the morning we ride out on our racing bikes for what was supposed to be a 45 kilometer ride. 2 kilometers into the ride we turn around and ride home to get warmer gloves as we could barely move our fingers anymore, after switching to different gloves we go out for attempt two.

staircaserunningAfter around 8 kilometers we have frozen feet and I could not feel my fingers anymore, despite the Summit Series gloves of The North Face I am wearing so we decide that it is time to call it a day.

Arriving home we have cycled 18 kilometers in total and it takes us some time to defrost all limbs.

Since I am not fully happy with the amount of training I had for today I decide it would be nice to do a bit of strength training. Since we don’t have a lot of hills to do a hill training I just throw a 10 kg kettlebell in a backpack, strap on the backpack and run up and down our staircase for 30 minutes.

Monday the 5th of December

monday512runFor today I had planned my longest run in preparation for the Bello Gallico, a 60+ km trailrun. Besides this running distance I had an additional challenge added to today’s training.

I created a 60 kilometer trail course from a combination of a trailrun course I regularly run on the Utrechtse Heuvelrug and a well known point to point course in that area.

The start and finish of the course was the railroad station in Driebergen, roughly 10 kilometers from my home. However since I have quit my job I no longer have a car so getting to the start of this trail course requires a bit more effort than normal.

And so on Monday morning the alarm goes of at 5:30 AM. Astrid and I get up and do our regular routine of Kettlebell and Planking exercises for about 30 minutes to start our day. When we are done and after a small breakfast I put on my running gear and backpack and get on my bicycle for a 10 kilometer ride to the start of my trail course.

After 25 minutes of cycling through pretty chilly conditions I arrive at the railroad station and find a place to safely leave my bike. I put the small jacket and windstopper gloves in my backpack, start up my GPS and off I go. It is around 9AM as I head out on the trail, roughly 60 kilometers ahead of me.

Utrecht Hill Ridge Long Run 1
Utrecht Hill Ridge Long Run 2
Utrecht Hill Ridge Long Run 3
Utrecht Hill Ridge Long Run 4

I follow the course on my GPS as I look around at the beautiful partly frozen environment. Suddenly I hear some movement up ahead. A deer leaps out of the bushes, stares directly at me and just as me stops in his (or her) tracks. Besides the tame Deers in Nara (Japan) I have never been this close to a Deer, it’s just 5 to 10 meters in front of me. For seconds it just stands there staring at me. Instead of trying to grab my camera I just stand there and watch, then after a few more seconds it runs into the distance.

I realize that this is one of the reasons that I run trails, and with almost 60 kilometers still ahead of me I am in for a full day of enjoyment.

After about 10 kilometers I remind myself that I have to drink. It is cold, a bit below 0, and I normally don’t get thirsty in these temperatures, but knowing how important it is to stay hydrated I take the tube of my hydration backpack in my mouth, nothing…. I try my soft flask which is also in my race vest, also nothing…

I pause my watch and stop to figure out what is wrong. I look at the tubes and both are completely filled with ice. Great another challenge! I untangle the tube of the hydration backpack from the backpack and put it between the backpack and my chest, assuming that my body heat will defrost the tube. In the mean time I am holding the tube of the soft flask with one hand causing it to defrost and allowing me to drink a bit.

Now that this is fixed I again continue to move forward, enjoying the environment and beautiful views with the sun that is low at the horizon and I find myself stopping for pictures quite regularly.

Utrecht Hill Ridge Long Run 5
Utrecht Hill Ridge Long Run 6
Utrecht Hill Ridge Long Run 7
Utrecht Hill Ridge Long Run 8

At the halfway mark of my course I am getting near a small village. I have created my course in a way to pass through this village to restock at a local groceries store. I enter the local AH store and buy a bottle of water, a small bottle of juice, a cookie and some chocolate. Outside in the sun on the parking lot I refill my water supply as I eat my just bought lunch. I really like this aspect of running, being out there the full day and using facilities like this to get supplies.

After a short lunch break I continue my way, back to the course I was following. By now it is 13:00 and I have a bit over 30 kilometers to go and 3,5 hours before the sun sets and I have to be out of the woods. So I better get going again.

Kilometer after kilometer passes by and I feel strong and am able to keep a consistent pace without taking too much breaks. In fact the only breaks I take are to take pictures.

With 2 kilometers to go I stop at a great view, I take a picture and take a deep breath as I stare into the distance where I see very narrow trail through the field ahead of me. I put my camera away and go for it. With almost 60 kilometers of running behind me I race down that winding singletrack.

Unfortunately the course leads me through an area were I cannot exit the national park as I had expected to, so a short detour was needed but just as the sun sets I arrive back at the train station after a total of 62.3 km in just under 6 hours.

As I unlock my bike I tell myself how special this is. A crossfit training session, cycling and then running this distance and still feeling fit and strong. I get on my bike and cycle the 10 km back home. What a great and amazing day!

Tuesday the 6th of December

Considering that the Bello Gallico trail is getting closer and closer and after yesterday’s training I decide that it is probably better to take it easy today. I still get up early and after some chores around the house I go out for a nice long walk.

During my walk I pass by the Runnersworld store in Utrecht and stop to buy a few things that I still need for the Bello Gallico trail. Since the location has changed it is also required to have a red light on your backpack for safety while running through the night.

At Runnersworld the guy in the store that greets me recognizes me from this blog post series, a surreal experience, and we chat a bit about my preparations and how it is going.

With a tube of footglide (hopefully to help me prevent blistering my feet) and a red light I leave the store and continue my walk back home, where I arrive after a total of 13 kilometers.

Wednesday the 7th of December

wednesday712rideThe temperature has gone up a bit and so I think this is a nice day to try another bike ride. This time equiped with the right gloves from the start and a pair of shoe covers to keep the cold of my feet I leave home for a 55 km ride.

The ride feels tough and I really need to work to keep a decent speed, more than usual. I figure that it is probably due to the long training on Monday. Nevertheless the ride also reminds me that I want to spend more time on the bike next year. I love cycling almost as much as I love running and have an awesome road bike that I don’t ride enough.

Later that day I start feeling symptoms that are similar than the ones Astrid has been feeling for two days now and that seem to indicate a stomach flu. I figure that this probably affected my performance on the bike during my morning ride as well.

Thursday the 8th of December

Today the stomach flu has clearly taken control of my stomach and I spent most of the day feeling weak, sick and on the toilet.

Even though I feel like crap I still take the train to Zoetermeer to visit Tom in the Mud Sweat Trails store for a nice chat and a lunch.

At the store I try on several Ultimate Direction race vests in a search to find something new and cool to wear during the Bello Gallico trail but I decide to do the wise thing and stick with my Salomon backpack instead of wearing something completely new at a 50 mile trail.

Friday the 9th of December and Saturday the 10th of December

friday912runsaturday1012runI slowly start to feel better on Friday and decide to go out for an easy short run. Covering 15 kilometers and conveniently planned along a course with some public toilets the run actually goes quite well and helps me to feel better.

Enough reason to go for the same run again the other day on Saturday. I start the run at around the same pace as yesterday, mostly because I want to run at an easy pace but also to get a good indication if I am feeling better at the same effort. I clearly do feel better and so in the end I add a few 20 second strides at top speed to wake up the leg muscles a bit.

All in all the stomach flu did not get to me too much (knock on wood) so the staying in one peace goal is still working out so far.

Sunday the 11th of December

sundaynight1112runFor tonight I have my final night training planned, a 3 hour slow run starting a bit before midnight in order to re-acquaint myself again with running at this unusual time and to get a feel of the temperature drop during the night.

This is also the last real training for the Bello Gallico. I might do a little short run somwhere in the last week but that’s just to keep moving a bit.

During the day Astrid and I go for a long walk in national park Hoge Veluwe and visit the Kroller Muller museum that lies within the park. In total we end up walking a bit over 20 kilometers during the day. Great time on feet training, especially with the night training that I have planned later that day.

After having dinner and watching some TV, I put on my running gear and go out of the door at 23:30. As I exit the street I turn on my headlamp and head into the dark.

During my night runs I always see people that are walking around mostly drunk, coming out of the local bar who look at me like I am some kind of alien. I stopped caring for what people think when they see me running a while ago and just move along.

The night is clear and cold I was not looking forward to this run as I am still struggling a bit with training motivation but regardless of the lack of motivation I still faithfully do the training that I have planned and so I continue running, even on this cold Sunday night while I would love to be in bed and just sleep.

To make it worse my intestines start playing up on me straight from the beginning. No public toilets around, but hey there are bushes, and it’s dark so who cares. Well I do because it makes my run far less enjoyable and even more difficult to finish.

utrechtnightrunBut I simply consider this to be part of training, would I drop out of a race because of this? No. And so I just continue while visiting the bushes every 5 km or so.

At 21 km in a pitch dark environment on a narrow trail along the water the battery of my headlamp dies, most likely I had it running on the wrong setting and it consumed the entire battery in just 2 hours.

Luckily I have a small flashlight with me that saves me here. After just over 3 hours of running and 32 kilometers I arrive home at 2:30 AM. Dispite the discomfort I finished the planned training, proud of it and happy to jump into the shower.

I go to bed at 3:00 AM happy that training is over, resting, active recovery, staying in one piece and preparing my gear is all that’s left before the start of the Bello Gallico trail.

Almost there

tiltdrinksOn Monday afternoon with just 5 days and a bit to go before the start of the Bello Gallico I am sitting at the local bar with a cup of tea and my lunch, Astrid is alongside me with her lunch and a beer and I think back on the past few months.

Even though I had a few small setbacks during the training period such as being hit by the flu for a few weeks in October and falling and injuring my leg in November I have been able to do almost all the training that I wanted to do. And considering where I am coming from, an unexperienced runner just 2 years after his first 10 km on the road I am proud of where I am.

The past few months preparing for this race have been a great journey. A journey in which I learned a lot about trailrunning, training, about gear and most of all about myself. I feel that I am ready for the challenge that the Bello Gallico will give me and confident that I have done all that was possible to prepare in a way to give me the best opportunity to finish this run.

But the past months have also made me realize that even though it will be great to finish this race and to get that medal, the real value lies in the journey towards it. The physical fitness I have managed to achieve for myself, the new friends I have met and the experiences that I enjoyed along the ride.

More than ever I consider myself blessed for being able to do this, that my life and my body allows me to do this and most importantly that I have Astrid alongside me that supports me in all of this.

5 days to go…. To be continued…..

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